Raise your hand if you have a busy schedule. Yeah. That’s what I thought. So many of us have filled our schedules to the brim – not always voluntarily. As a working mother with a couple of side jobs, I completely understand having a busy schedule. However, I am a language addict. Every time I meet someone from a different country, I want to learn their language. I currently have nine languages on my practice list. Nine! To be fair, though, I am only working consistently on two – German and Chinese. Still, that is a lot to put on an already overflowing plate. How does one find time to study another language?
Before we talk about making time, we need to establish what language is the most practical to learn. Let’s be honest. If we are already extremely busy, why waste precious time on a language that we will hardly ever use? I would like to make a strong case for learning Spanish. If you would like a more extensive list of why Spanish is the best language to learn, click here. For now, I will just leave you with this – Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world. There is no need to worry about never using Spanish, as there are about 500 million native speakers worldwide – about 100 million more than native English speakers.
So, we’ve decided that learning Spanish is worth the time and effort. How much effort are we talking about, though? If you are serious about learning Spanish, you will need to be consistent in your study habits. You cannot expect to make progress if you think about Spanish once every month. When you learn a language, you must actually retrain your brain how to think about things. It requires consistency and repetition. However, it does not require hours of extensive study each week. There are several ways that you can study on-the-go or for just a couple of minutes a day. Everyone’s schedule looks different, so I will leave you with several different ideas that you can choose from.
This is probably the easiest way to fit Spanish into your crazy schedule because you can dedicate as much (or as little) time as you would like to your studies. Most of the best apps have a feature where you can determine what your daily goal is – 5, 10, or even 20 minutes. They keep track of your progress, reward your dedication, and remind you when some of your vocabulary words have become weak. My personal favorite is Memrise, but there are several other excellent apps to learn Spanish on the go. The application Drops actually limits you to only 5 minutes of learning per day, so you don’t overwhelm yourself with vocabulary.
In this technological age, most people don’t leave the house without their phone. We depend on our phones for everything – directions, transportation, games – which ensures that it is always with us. Instead of browsing Instagram the next time you look at your phone, start with learning a bit of Spanish. Find a time you have available every day that you can dedicate five minutes to studying. For example, I often study on the bus or in an Uber. However, if I want to use the pronunciation feature, I prefer to be alone. I have two 15-minute breaks at work, and I usually dedicate one full break to language learning with an application. So, find a couple of minutes in your daily schedule that you can spend on your phone – doing something productive instead of browsing social media.
2. Surround Yourself with Language
Where do you spend most of your time? Maybe you often find yourself in the kitchen, your cubicle at work, or perhaps even your car. Wherever that place is, look up the vocabulary for the objects that surround you and make small labels. These can be either handwritten or typed out, whatever works best for you. Tape the labels onto each object so that every time you use that item or walk past it, you see the word. This will help you relate that object to the word in Spanish.
A big step in language learning is being able to immediately relate an object to its corresponding word in the target language instead of having to translate it in your mind. Basically, when you start learning Spanish, you start by thinking about what you want to say in English, translating it to Spanish, then producing it. The goal is to eliminate any English go straight to Spanish. To get to that point, you need to repeatedly see the object and connect it to the Spanish word, which is where our labels come in; every time you use a labeled object, you will be reminded of its Spanish name. This will create new pathways in your brain and rewire it to associate objects immediately with their Spanish names.
Once you’ve moved past objects and would like to start forming sentences, you can do the same thing. For example, once you’ve learned the words ‘sartén, olla, and estufa,’ you can label those objects with phrases like ‘yo uso el sartén y la olla para cocinar en la estufa.’ This method may take a bit of time to get started, but you will be learning Spanish while doing your daily tasks, which will save you a lot of time.
3. You May Say I’m a Dreamer
Now, this one may sound a bit crazy, but it has greatly helped my progress in various languages. Talk to yourself in Spanish! Whatever you are thinking about, try to express it in Spanish. Instead of stumbling over words and phrases when you are in an actual conversation, practice with yourself first to make sure the words flow!
I studied Spanish for several years, but I just could not speak it for the life of me. I traveled to Peru, thinking I could speak fluent Spanish, but as it turns out, I could barely get a few sentences out. There is a big gap between understanding a language and actually being able to reproduce it – those are even two different types of fluency. So, to help me get used to thinking in Spanish and quickly forming sentences, I tried to think in Spanish, and I spoke out loud at times to make sure I could pronounce what I was imagining. I specifically remember one morning at home. I was doing laundry and talking to myself in Spanish. If you had seen me, you may have thought I was a bit on the crazy side, but this really helped me when there were no native Spanish speakers around to talk to. You can still flex those speaking muscles by yourself while doing one of the million tasks you have for the day.
If you spend most of your day around other people, I wouldn’t recommend speaking out loud. However, you can still work on thinking in Spanish. Try and remember how to say a certain phrase in Spanish that you just said to your coworker. Look up some words if you need to. Practice it in your head. Remember, learning a new language is retraining your brain, and training takes consistent practice.
4. Classes with a Native Speaker
All of these previous choices do not give you the ability to actually converse with a native speaker. They are great tools to supplement but to reach fluency you need to actually communicate with someone else who speaks the language. However, that would involve hours of classes a week, loads of money, and lots of travel time to get to the class. What if I told you there was a way to learn Spanish wherever you are (in your home, at a café, on your lunch break) for a fraction of what normal private tutors charge. It is possible!
Here at Spanish Academy, we offer online Spanish classes at a cost you can afford. If you don’t believe me, click here or here to see our price comparisons with some of the other leading companies. Our company is located in Guatemala, so all of our teachers are certified, native Spanish speakers. That means that instead of relying on the conversations you have with yourself, you can ask someone who actually speaks Spanish for some help with your pronunciation and sentence formation.
Even if you have a crazy schedule and only have a half hour free during your lunch break, you can take a class then. Our flexible scheduling ensures that you get to take a class at the best time of day for you. You can even choose from over 50 teachers to find one that best suits your personality and learning needs. As I have learned, nothing beats immersing yourself in the language. I have done all of the above practice habits and they have definitely helped, but they are more of a supplement to my real-life conversations with a native speaker.
Now it’s up to you. You have four methods to chose from to make sure you fit learning Spanish into your busy schedule. You can’t use the excuse that you’re too busy anymore! Choose which of these options above would be best for you…or do them all! Take a Free Class with us today to see how our program can meet your specific needs and start supplementing with the other methods mentions. You’ll be speaking Spanish before you know it! ¡Estarás hablando en español antes de lo que piensas!
If you are looking to get a good handle on Spanish in just a short amount of time, check out our video and accompanying PDF!
You’re walking down the street and you meet one of your friends who speaks Spanish. You haven’t seen each other in a long time so while catching up, you tell him or her that you’ve just started learning Spanish online with Homeschool Spanish Academy! They are very happy to hear that you’ve started the adventure of learning a new language, so they say jokingly to test your skills: Hola. ¿Cómo estás? You turn red because you still feel a bit unsure about Spanish pronunciation and the correct use of verbs. You smile nervously. Thankfully, your friend has had Spanish lessons for a long time and explains that you can answer with just a short bien, you can say me siento bien, or you can also answer estoy bien.
Now, we’re here to help! Watch this awesome video we just released and keep reading this blog post! We’ve got you completely covered!
Would you rather download this blog with additional exercises? Click below! Don’t forget to practice with this video as well!
Expressing Our Feelings
As you may have learned from that interaction with your old friend, you can express the way you feel in Spanish in more than one way. Let’s have a look at that:
Sentirse vs. Sentir
Sentirse means to feel, and sentir, without the se of the reflexive verb, means to feel. Wait, what? They translate to the same English word, but they have two slightly different meanings in Spanish. It’s a little bit like that blog we wrote on ya and its 14 meanings! Check it out here if you haven’t had a chance to do so already. In this particular case, ‘to feel’ in Spanish can either be:
- sentirse: to feel oneself, to recognize one’s feelings,
- After the verb, we have an adjective: Me siento feliz (adj.). I feel happy (adj.).
- sentir: to feel a feeling
- After the verb, we have a noun: Siento felicidad (noun). I feel happiness (noun).
- sentir: to feel something outside oneself
- Siento la textura. I feel the texture.
When we say me siento or estoy, we’re using linking verbs* to help us describe the way we feel. After these linking verbs, there always comes an adjective! Do you remember how in Spanish an adjective has to agree with the gender and number of the noun?
* Linking verbs are verbs that connect an adjective to a noun. They are like a bridge that helps us connect the description of an adjective to the subject of a sentence, unlike other verbs that describe the action that the subject of a sentence performs. Linking verbs help us describe a subject. Some examples of linking verbs in English are: to be, to appear, to smell, to become.
Let’s have a look at examples of gender-number agreement when it comes expressing the way we feel:
As you can see here, the adjective changes in both gender and number to match the subject of the sentence. In this case, we used personal pronouns only to give a better example, but we can replace these with nouns:
- Instead of él/ellos, we can write el niño/los niños
- Instead of ella/ellas, we can write la niña/las niñas
* In any case, the adjective needs to match both in gender and number the personal pronoun or the noun that we use in the sentence! That’s always very important when using adjectives, and not only the ones that reflect the way we feel!
As with almost every rule in language, there are exceptions. There are adjectives that are invariable. This means that they change only to agree with the noun’s number (not the gender), or they do not change at all. Let’s check those out!
Number agreement only
As you can see with these two examples, the adjective changes when used in plural and singular, but there’s no difference when the gender of the noun changes.
The’s one more way in Spanish in which you can express how you’re feeling at a specific point in time. In English you are hungry, or thirsty. While in Spanish you can estar hambriento or estar sediento, it’s a lot more common to say that you tienes hambre (you have hunger) o tienes sed (you have thirst).
As you may have noticed, this construction includes the verb:
tener (to have) + a noun
Let’s see how this works:
A Little Practice
Let’s enjoy this little practice exercise by feeling in the blanks! Remember the gender and number agreement! Don’t forget to book a FREE class today to practice even more!
|Yo ___ feli__.||I feel happy.|
|Tú ___ trist__.||You are sad.|
|Ella ___ emocionad__.||She feels excited.|
|Nosotros ___ preocupad__.||We are worried.|
|Ustedes ___ feli__.||You all feel happy.|
|Ellos ___ nervios__.||They are nervous.|
Now it’s your turn to build sentences with these adjectives:
If you are wondering how to pronounce these words and phrases, check out our supplementary video lesson!Read More
Learning a new language can be daunting – the pronunciation, the grammar, the slang, the social nuances. Even when it’s a category 1 language like Spanish, the learning process can be quite intimidating, especially when you don’t know how to start.
There were two main things that held me back several years when learning Spanish: fear of making mistakes and lack of exposure. Now, I was exposed to Spanish as young as 5 years old, and I took classes and used audio books for about 6 years in middle school and high school. One year before I graduated, I took a trip to Peru. I was expected to be a translator since I was at the top of my Spanish class, but when I got there it was a complete shock. I did not understand one. Single. Word. Then, a few years later, I went to Guatemala and truly focused on my Spanish. Once I committed myself to Spanish immersion and practice with native speakers, I was holding conversations after one month and translating for my friends by 4 months. Now, complete fluency took a few years more, but that had to do more with learning the local jargon and perfecting the dreaded subjunctive. In those first months though, I did not take one single Spanish class. So, how was I able to learn so quickly? Well, I’ve put together some important points that helped me learn Spanish as a beginner. Hopefully, they will be of service to you as well!
1. Language Journal
I’m a visual learner. Still to this day, if I learn a new Spanish word, I cannot remember or reproduce it until I see it written. If you’re a visual learner like me, keeping a language journal is critical to the learning process. You can write down new words, make connections between them, study sentence structure….and the list goes on. Even if you’re not a visual learner, a language journal is still a great idea when learning Spanish as a beginner. You can write down new words you hear in a conversation or in a movie, mark down the pronunciation, and return to your notes at later times to keep practicing.
When learning a language, you are teaching your brain to think in a completely different way. Up until now, it has always thought and used English (unless English is not your first language!). In order to work towards Spanish fluency, your brain needs to create new pathways; it’s like digging a riverbed in a desert. At first, it will be extremely difficult, but with practice and repetition, the water will start flowing with ease. That’s where the journal comes in. You can’t expect yourself to remember every word you hear in class or in a conversation – you need reinforcement. With the language journal, you can write things down how you best understand and remember them. You can refer to your notes to practice or if you forget a word that’s on the tip of your tongue. It’s also extremely useful to have a small language journal to carry with you if you know you’re going to be situations that require Spanish conversation. I can tell you from personal experience that a language journal can be a lifesaver when you start learning Spanish as a beginner.
Like I said before, lack of exposure held me back from Spanish fluency for 6 years. 6 years! When I had accurate exposure to the Spanish language, I was conversing in months. Exposure to the language is absolutely essential when learning Spanish as a beginner, whether you’re 5 or 95! It may seem absolutely overwhelming initially, but remember what I said about building riverbeds in our brain? At first, the water trickles, but with practice, it will soon start flowing.
Taking Spanish classes with a native English speaker may seem easier for you, but in the end, it will cost you – possibly even 6 years! Take the leap. Expose yourself to the Spanish language. This doesn’t necessarily mean traveling to Latin America and completely immersing yourself in the culture and language (Although, if you get the chance, I highly recommend it). There are plenty of opportunities for exposure right where you are.
- Movies and Television – You may think that it’s not possible to learn a language this way, but I have met so many people who learned to speak English just by watching movies and TV shows like ‘Friends.’ It takes commitment, but it’s possible! This is a great way to get Spanish exposure at no extra cost, especially if you have young learners. Netflix is a great option as well because you can choose from shows in Spanish (like Narcos or Reina del Flow) and shows that have a mix of English and Spanish, or ‘Spanglish’ (Jane the Virgin, One Day at a Time). Subtitles are another great tool to increase your Spanish exposure and comprehension. Learn more about how to use them to learn Spanish as a beginner here.
- Community – About 51 million people speak Spanish in the United States. Get out and make some friends! I know it can be awkward to start speaking your second language with a native speaker – trust me, I avoided it for a very long time. However, nothing can help you more than taking that step and initiating conversation with a native speaker.
- Online Classes – Here at Spanish Academy, we offer high-quality online Spanish classes to students of all ages around over the world. These classes are unique because they are taught by native speakers whose goal is to improve your Spanish fluency. You get great exposure to the language, a personal tutor to answer all your questions, and reinforcement materials. Instead of traveling all the way to Latin America, you can get the same benefits right in the comfort of your own home. Try a Free Class today to see if it’s a right fit for you!
So you have your vocabulary words written in your handy-dandy notebook. You increased your exposure to the language using one of the suggestions above. Now comes the scary part. Actually talking. I avoided conversing in Spanish for such a long time, thinking I wasn’t ready yet. Turns out, it was what I needed most of all. If you just do bookwork and never practice speaking, you’ll never be ready to hold a conversation. As uncomfortable as it may be, you need to start conversations in Spanish even as a beginner. In my personal experience, many native Spanish speakers wanted to speak English with me so they could practice. However, when I expressed my desire to learn and improve my Spanish, they were more than happy to help me. I am forever grateful to them for their patience as they listened to me stumble through sentences and repeated themselves various times until I understood what they were saying. Find someone you feel comfortable with (possibly even with a personal instructor from Spanish Academy) and ask to practice your Spanish with them.
Of course, learning a language doesn’t happen overnight. Be patient with yourself. Everyone learns in a unique way at their own speed. You will make mistakes – I still do, in both languages! However, if you are persistent in learning Spanish and use the right tools, you will progress towards fluency. Don’t get frustrated!
Also, you will be surprised at how patient people are when you try to speak to them in their native language. When I was learning Spanish as a beginner, I was afraid they would get frustrated or not understand me. However, it was quite the contrary. The people around me understood what I was trying to say and helped me express myself in a more natural way. They were incredibly forgiving and so delighted that I was making an effort to communicate with them in Spanish.
‘La práctica hace al maestro.’ Practice makes perfect. This is especially true when talking about learning a language and creating those pathways in your brain. The more you practice, the easier Spanish will come. One great tool I can recommend to learn Spanish as a beginner is language apps. They aren’t the same as having your own Spanish teacher, but they are a great way to reinforce what you are learning in class or what you heard in your Spanish conversations. Check out our top 4 apps of 2019, and pick which one would best for your language needs. For complete beginners, I would recommend Drops.
To learn Spanish as a beginner, you need to make sure you have some sort of exposure to Spanish every day, whether that be through apps, TV, conversations, or classes. Taking a class here and there or using Duolingo once a month will not get you to fluency. Keep practicing diligently, and you will see impressive results in as little as a few months!
To learn more about our Spanish program and the classes we offer, click here. If you want to know why our method works, check out this blog, which also explains more about the way our brains function. And, of course, don’t forget to sign up for a free class today! When learning Spanish as a beginner, it really helps to have a native speaker help you through the process and answer all your questions. Choose your personal instructor from our 60+ teachers to guide you on the path towards Spanish fluency. ¡Empieza hoy!
If you could have all of the money in the world, what would be the first logical thing to do? Well, I assume you would, of course, start with the basics. First, you would buy at least one theme park (we know it would be Disney World). Then you’d acquire the world’s supply of Cheetos! And lastly, why not build a real life Jurassic Park! And after all those purchases, you would totally be in serious need of help between all the accounting and organizational skills needed to run these places!
We cannot really say that we would be able to keep up with the accounting needs of Disney World AND Jurassic Park. We can say with full confidence though that we got your back on the organizational end of things! Well, at least when it comes to the currencies people will be paying with! I’m happy to introduce you to your new Spanish Currency Council! We organize currencies through historical journeys, and we’d love you to think of us more of like a travel agent than a tax assistant!
Do you remember the Fun with Spanish Flags blog we shared with you a few weeks ago? With the help of that post, we learned about the 21 Spanish-speaking countries that have 21 different Spanish flags and also different currencies. Did that help refresh
As your newly appointed Spanish Currency Council, our first matter of duty will be to get organized! To do that, we will need to go over the Peso, the Dollar, and the irregular, independent, and self-named currencies!
Spanish Currency Table
Before we begin, I would like to give you a present to congratulate your recent status as an amusement park owner. It doesn’t matter if it’s Disney World or Jurassic Park! Of course, the best gift your Spanish Currency Council can give you is a very cheesy youtube video! Sing along to a quick summary of what every Spanish speaking country uses as currency. If you simply cannot find the catchiness in the song, here is a list for reference:
To summarize, out of the 21 countries and territories:
- 8 countries use Pesos
- 3 countries use US dollars
- 10 use ‘irregular’ country currencies
With that in mind, let’s explore the “why and how” to this seemingly divided Spanish currencies scenario.
Types of Spanish Currency
Because the economy is always changing, and According to WorldAtlas.com, the countries that use the Peso are as follows:
Well, you are all ready to use, give, and save your Pesos, but what about something more familiar like Dollars? Do you think it will be similar? Well, let’s take a look and see.
Alright, newly made millionaire! Now that you got the basic Spanish Currency down (and hopefully remember our favorite awkward yet helpful Spanish Currency youtube song) as your Spanish Currency Council, we want to finally show you some of the ‘irregular’ Spanish currencies to finally help you master your life as a Spanish-Currency millionaire.
The remaining 10 Spanish Currencies that do not follow the Peso or Dollar usages are more like works of art then they are currencies. Remember our little chat about colonization? Well, these currencies also come from countries that were colonized. Despite that, they kept their heritage embedded in the smaller things, like the names of their currency. Interestingly enough, they are all based on national birds, indigenous groups, and even great warriors and explorers who the people remember…dearly or not. Don’t believe us? We’ll go over this brief description. For curiosity’s sake, check out these facts from our ‘associates’ at Onda Trading Facts.
Whether you are a collector of Spanish currencies, have a huge bucket list to travel to every Spanish-speaking company, or actually DO win that final round of Spanish Quotes from the game show in our last blog (which is why you are now a millionaire), understanding Spanish currency is an essential tool, with or without your Spanish Currency Council. The value of money always changes, but its history does not. Try to put a price on that!Read More
Learning a new language is a long process. For example, when I was learning a second language, it took a lot of time with memorizing vocabulary and doing different practice exercises. It takes a lot of practice and studying to truly master another language. If you are new to learning Spanish or you have just been practicing it for a little bit, or even if you’re an advanced learner of Spanish! I bet you’ve had moments where someone has told you something in Spanish and you have no idea what they just said. It happens! There are some Spanish Phrases you won’t understand. It’s okay to have these blank moments.
Now, I put something together for you beginners to avoid situations like these. Here is a list of the 25 most used Spanish phrases. Practice them. Memorize them. Use them. You can check also out our previous blog Spanish for Dummies. Hopefully, with these, you will successfully avoid those awkward moments.
Greetings are important because they are our conversation openers. You probably already know ‘hola,’ but asking how someone is doing is also an important skill to have. You can greet someone in Spanish in many ways (check out our previous blog on Spanish Greetings for more information), but here are the basic Spanish phrases for greetings:
However, these last three Spanish phrases can be used as greetings and also as a way of saying goodbye. Surprisingly, they mean the same in both situations.
Responses to greetings
Saying hello is important. On the other hand, being able to respond to a greeting is fundamental if you want to avoid those awkward pauses. These responses help to keep the conversation flowing. Here’s the list of short, basic responses that are super easy to learn:
Likewise, farewells in Spanish are good to know so you don’t leave a conversation hanging open. Just like not being able to respond, leaving without saying goodbye would be very awkward. To avoid that, here is the list of Spanish phrases to say goodbye:
Polite Spanish Phrases
People in Spanish-speaking countries are very kind and polite toward tourists and people that can’t speak the language fluently. If you are traveling aboard, for example, the locals will gladly help you with anything you need. Therefore, you need to know some Spanish phrases to respond to their politeness:
In addition, ‘Perdón’ and ‘Disculpa’ can also be used for ‘excuse me.’
Questions are half of a conversation. For instance, they help when you want to get to know someone, but also if you don’t know something, or if you want to ask for help. This is why earning to say those questions in Spanish is very important.
Questions in Spanish start with one of these phrases: Cómo, Cuándo, Por qué, Quién, Qué, and Dónde. In English, these are: How, When, Why, Who, What, and Where. To clarify, here is a short list of Spanish questions:
Other Useful Spanish Phrases
All of the Spanish phrases above are very useful and important to know if you want to have a fluid conversation in Spanish. There are many other phrases you can learn, but here are the last three I consider useful so you can learn:
I really hope these 25 Spanish phrases that I have listed are useful to you. I can guarantee that if you learn these you will not have that many moments where you don’t know how to respond. These phrases will help you understand what others are saying and how to respond to them. Also, learning these phrases will help you further your studies of the Spanish language. If you are looking for more phrases and important things to know in Spanish, check out our blog on how to Learn Spanish in 5 months!Read More
We talk to people every day – on the street, in the store, at home – and rarely think about how amazing it is that we can actually communicate with them. We constantly take for granted our ability to converse with those around us.
Now, 58.9 million of our neighbors here in the States are Spanish-speakers. Imagine that for a moment. There is an impressive language barrier between us and almost 20% of the population. How can we bridge that gap and begin to communicate more fully with our neighbors? Well, we can start by perfecting our Spanish-learning process.
Why the Traditional Methods of Learning Spanish are Flawed
Let’s think about how most of us have tried to learn Spanish…
- Workbooks with reading and writing exercises
- Large classroom settings
- Non-native Spanish speaking instructors
- Software (free or paid) with audio recordings
- Classes only 1 or 2 times per week
Did one of these methods work for you? More than likely, they did not because these techniques utilize the wrong parts of the brain.
Flaws in the Traditional Methods
Remember the list we made of the different ways we normally try to learn Spanish? Those are what we are going to call ‘traditional learning methods.’ Let’s explore further to see where exactly they went wrong.
If you’re like me and went to public school, the norm was that you took about a year of foreign language in middle school before it became a requirement in high school. Since I studied in Texas, Spanish was the most logical choice of a second language. However, it wasn’t like I had much of a choice since German and French were my only other options. So, I began to study Spanish only because of its practicality. Now, on a personal level, Spanish was my least favorite class. I was a pretty good student overall, but matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t do better than a B- (yes, I know – I was an overachiever).
At some point, I owned the fact that I wasn’t good at learning languages and just gave up. I stopped trying, which was quite contrary to my personality.
Looking back, I can point to several things that probably held me back.
Common Learning Errors
- Large Classes: I was in a 5A district, studying at a high school of 5000+ students. My graduating class was about 1000 students. In other words, the classrooms were consistently filled to capacity.
- Limited Attention: Due to the high student count, how much attention could one teacher realistically give to any one student? How does anyone stay focused when they’re just another face in the crowd?
- Limited Practice: Our classes, if I remember correctly, were approximately 50 minutes. They later shifted to an hour and twenty minutes in high school. Within those 80 minutes, I experienced about 10 minutes of actual application time. However, we weren’t speaking with actual native speakers. Instead, we stammered broken phrases to other non-Spanish speakers for a couple of minutes until we got distracted by a more interesting topic.
- Workbooks: Given the limited class practice time, most of the actual Spanish work was assigned as homework. This meant that we mainly learned about the reading and writing rules of the Spanish language in class, and perfected them (or at least attempted to) outside of class. I would actually argue that my reading and writing got pretty decent, but I couldn’t speak the language if my life depended on it.
In hindsight, it’s clear that my Spanish journey was flawed since day one. I was learning how to read and write in Spanish, but I barely flexed my auditory & speaking muscles. The lessons, activities, and practice works were constantly reinforcing reading and writing in Spanish, nothing else.
Now let me be clear. I’m definitely not saying that software and textbooks that focus on those learning areas are insignificant. I truly believe they can be helpful. However, I’m simply saying that they are only one part of a much bigger picture. We need various tools to activate the key areas of the brain that will help us effectively learn Spanish fast.
Before we can begin to learn Spanish fast, we must have a better understanding of how the brain functions when learning a language.
How the Brain Works
The brain is a very complex organ in the human body. It controls everything we do. Whether that’s reading, writing, or speaking, the brain has to be trained, over time, to know how to complete those tasks.
Although the brain is much more complex than what we can delve into here today, it is clear from looking at this diagram that different language functions are primarily controlled by distinct areas of the brain.
What this shows us is that when we try to learn a language with just reading or writing exercises, it isn’t very effective because we aren’t exercising the part of the brain that controls speech. We are learning only half of what we need to become fluent in Spanish.
In other words, as a learning audience, we have been studying and learning Spanish incorrectly.
In a nutshell, our brain accomplishes any task by firing or sending electrical signals to different regions of the brain. These signals then travel through the body to the muscles that you want to use. Let’s say, for example, you want to say something. Your brain would first send out signals to different parts of the brain to recall the words and sentence structure you need. Then, it would signal your muscles to move correctly and get your vocal cords to produce the correct sound. All at the same time. Whoa! That’s a lot of tasks! No wonder it’s a hard thing to learn, huh?
Becoming More Efficient
These electrical signals we just talked about travel along something called ‘axons.’ However, the further the signals have to travel, the more energy they lose. Luckily, our axons are wrapped in a fatty substance called myelin, which helps maintain energy. You can think of axons like the coaxial cables of the brain.
When we’re younger, this myelin fatty substance is quite thin. The more we ‘practice’ specific tasks, though, the more resources your body dedicates to that axon and thickening the myelin. This, in turn, produces a very well insulated pathway for that particular electrical signal. In this TED video that explores the idea further, they refer to it as something “similar to an information superhighway.”
Logically speaking, as a signal becomes fast and more efficient, the result should appear quicker and better, right?
Targeting the Correct Objective
The answer is yes. But to make that signal faster, we need to practice the right tasks. If we want to create efficient pathways in our brain for speaking Spanish but never say a word, those pathways will never develop. We must target the correct objective when we learn Spanish.
At this point, I can probably conclude that I did not excel in high school Spanish because the curriculum and activities were creating and reinforcing axon pathways in my brain specifically for reading and writing. Had I been able to converse and develop pathways for speaking, I would have been more proficient in communicating in Spanish. There’s a common saying, “practice how you’ll execute,” and it rings true for language learning.
More Than Practice: Quality and Effectiveness
The video I previously mentioned goes on to point out that although practice is necessary to build up the myelin along your axons, it’s not the only thing needed to develop mastery over any skill, including speaking Spanish.
This explains why repeating a bunch of words randomly or without context, often does NOT lead to Spanish fluency. So, we have talked about how traditional learning methods are ineffective. What’s the correct way to learn Spanish quickly, then?
How We Do It:
At Spanish Academy, we’ve developed a unique method of teaching Spanish that centers around five key concepts represented by the acronym RAMMA. These letters stand for:
Our classes are either 1-on-1 or 2-on-1, giving you the ability to talk about things that are relevant to your life. This does a couple of things. First, it gives your brain a point of reference and allows you to contextualize and process what’s going on. It also aids in pushing the information into your long term memory.
Because the information is relevant to your experience, you’re naturally more engaged in the class. Studies show time and time again*** that when you are attentive, your brain is more likely to retain the information.
Now that your classes are relevant to your experiences, you can learn Spanish through a lens you are familiar with. This gives meaning and perspective to your Spanish learning journey. Instead of just learning a bunch of generic words and phrases that you might never use, you will actually learn useful and meaningful vocabulary, grammar, and conversation skills.
Just like being attentive allows you to store information in your long-term memory, giving meaning to the context allows you to do the same. All that context, perspective, and meaning lets you process and store this information a lot faster than if you were to just try and memorize things a list of words.
Of course, repetition plays an important part in language learning. That’s where the last letter comes in: A for accountability. To continue with something that’s difficult, you need guidance and direction – or accountability. This is one of the most important things that people forget about or don’t include in their learning regiment because they don’t think it’s important. However, it can actually shorten your learning curve by avoiding mistakes that you would otherwise make. Think of your Spanish teacher (or some accountability partner) like Google Maps. You’re still able to get to where you need to go without Google Maps, but it’s a lot faster if you have it guiding you along the way.
Learn Spanish Fast
In my travels, there’s a joke that I’ve encountered many times over – as I’m sure many of you probably have. It goes something like this…
“What do you call someone that knows three languages?”
“What do you call someone who knows two languages?”
“What do you call someone who knows one language?”
Crazy right? But, there’s some truth to the joke. In many parts of America, there are people who feel that other languages should not be spoken or used in public.
Without getting political, I think one of the reasons for this, is that people find it really hard to learn Spanish or any other language. And it is challenging, don’t get me wrong. But it can be easier than people make it out to be if they practice and learn Spanish correctly.
So, it’s time to throw out those traditional methods and start learning Spanish effectively today. Click here to learn even more about how our program can help you learn Spanish fast, or go ahead and sign up for a free class. We can’t wait to see you in class!
About the author
Ron went from zero to Spanish fluency in 3 months after he left his high-paying consultant gig to become a director of a school for impoverished kids in Guatemala in 2009 – dove into the deep end. In 2010, he saw an opportunity for a real business and began his company in his tiny apartment. As the CEO/Founder of Homeschool Spanish Academy & Spanish Academy TV, he loves making an impact in students’ lives and also really loves chocolate.
If you’d like to learn more about how the brain works, check out this TED video. Or watch this one to discover how to learn Spanish in only 6 months! These videos go more in-depth with the ideas discussed in this blog.
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So, you want to learn Spanish. Maybe it’s even one of your New Year’s resolutions that you said you wanted to do but haven’t got around to yet. Nowadays, there are so many different resources we can use to learn Spanish. Applications, though, have a special draw to those of us who want to learn quickly and on the go. Maybe you’re looking to start from scratch, or perhaps you are already in Spanish and just need extra support. Well, you’re in luck! We’ve compiled a list of the best Spanish apps of 2019 to learn Spanish for free! Check out which one will work best for you.
There are four key areas of language learning: listening, speaking, writing, and reading. The most passed over and avoided area is reading, probably because it requires patience and time. However, reading can astronomically improve your language skills because you are subconsciously learning language structure and patterns while also absorbing new vocabulary through context. The only issue is…how can we make it fun and appealing? With Beelinguapp! This is by far the best app to practice your Spanish reading. With the free version, you have access to a variety of reading material. You can choose from different categories, such as travel, kids’ stories, and science. In addition, you can select your level as beginner, intermediate, or advanced. However, I will say that the beginner material is not for true beginners. You will need some basic Spanish knowledge before using this app.
How does it work?
After selecting your language, level, and category, you can choose which item you would like to read. Then, download it and begin reading either on your own or with the narrator. As the narrator speaks, the app highlights the text so that you can both hear the pronunciation and see the written word. Another cool feature of this app is that you can read the Spanish part only, or have the Spanish and English versions open at the same time to compare them. Finally, you can build your own glossary by adding new vocabulary words to your account.
This Spanish app was quite a pleasant surprise. It’s called ‘drops’ because you learn just a couple words at a time. In the free version, you can only study 5 minutes every 10 hours, which is perfect for those of you who are trying to squeeze language-learning into your busy schedules. If you’re looking for something more intensive, or already have some Spanish experience I would not recommend Drops. However, if you are just starting to learn, this is one of the best Spanish apps available.
How does it work?
Drops has great visual effects, with a drawing or animation accompanying each vocabulary word. After each word is introduced, there are exercises and games to help you truly learn the vocabulary. The app tracks your progress by how many words you have learned and then calculates your level accordingly. Additionally, the vocabulary is separated into categories, and the first level of every category is available all at once for your perusal. The categories include everything from science to business, from food to fashion.
In my opinion, Memrise came in as an extremely close second after Duolingo for the title of ‘best app to learn Spanish.’ While the other Spanish apps are limited to their own specific style of learning, Memrise combines them all into one app. Not only can you learn multiple languages at once, but you can learn from multiple platforms. For example, you can learn Spanish from the multiple Memrise Spanish courses, or from different programs that users themselves have created. Some of these other courses even include all the vocabulary from the corresponding Duolingo courses.
How does it work?
This app looks at language learning like growing a plant. When a word is first introduced, it is just a seedling. The more you practice, the more the plant grows until it flourishes into a flower. When the flower wilts, it means it’s time to practice that word. Depending on the course you choose, you can learn both phrases and vocabulary. Instead of a placement test, Memrise offers different levels of Spanish that you can choose from based on your experience. The Memrise courses themselves offer both vocabulary and phrases, while some of the other courses focus on different vocabulary, conversational skills, idioms, etc. In the learning process, you can find a variety of exercises, from watching videos of native speakers to practicing your own pronunciation. The app even includes both direct and literal translations so you can understand the structure of words and phrases.
Of course, you’ve probably heard of Duolingo. It has become so popular lately, and it continues to hold it’s title as one of the best apps to learn languages. What makes this app doubly amazing is that the founder of Duolingo is Guatemalan! Since our teachers are located in Guatemala, the country holds a special place in our hearts (learn more about Guatemala here). However, Duolingo isn’t in the number one best app spot because of any bias. To the contrary, its content speaks for itself.
How does it work?
You can either start at the very beginning or take a placement test to score out of some lessons, which makes this app perfect for all Spanish learners. As you progress through the lessons, you learn both vocabulary and phrases. Additionally, grammar is taught by showing it in sentences instead of a formal grammar lesson. If you would like more explanation, you can hover over the word or words. Like Memrise, you can reach different levels and goals, which encourages the user to keep practicing. To reinforce what you have learned, there are interactive exercises that test all areas of language-learning: pronunciation, writing, listening, and comprehension. Duolingo and Memrise are very similar in the way that they present and practice vocabulary, but Duolingo takes it a step further by giving grammatical explications, user forums, and supplemental learning features.
Get Practicing with the Spanish Apps!
Now that you have all the information, try out some of 2019’s best Spanish apps. Let us know which one you found to be your favorite!
Of course, the best way to utilize these Spanish apps would be to use them as a supplemental course to real Spanish classes. Take a Free Trial Class with us today and see how you can learn Spanish with a live instructor from the comfort of your home.
Body language accounts for 90% of the information exchanged between two speakers. Unfortunately, we may go to another country without learning important gestures and their meanings. However, by learning body language and practicing it before traveling, we will be better equipped to communicate. If you know where you’d like to go in order to enhance your speaking skills and comprehension, then you’ll know what types of body language and gestures to learn based on the region. Additionally, you will benefit from learning the body parts in Spanish and their idioms.
Spanish Body Parts: The Vocabulary
The Spanish-speaking world, known in linguistics as the hispanosphere, is bursting at its seam with a variety of slang. The Spanish body parts vocabulary provides a variety of slang. These can differ in each country, so we will just focus only on the general words used and understood in every hispanophone (Spanish-speaking) culture. With an excellent basic foundation in understanding, you will be able to learn the relevant slang words much quicker and improve comprehension more efficiently by asking questions. Let’s look at some Spanish body parts!
The Human Body
The Head and Face
Spanish Body Parts and Idioms: Using the Vocabulary
Learning idioms is vital when communicating with the natives of a foreign country. They are the informal, figurative language we use in daily life that expresses feelings or situations in a phrase whose meaning doesn’t immediately stand out. For example, in English, we say “Hold your horses!” when we want to express the idea that the other person needs to wait. Clearly, we are not asking them to hold back their actual horses! This is informal, figurative (non-literal) language. To truly understand the conversation and the culture of a hispanophone country, we must be aware of these figurative phrases exist. Also, don’t be afraid to ask about them when you hear a strange phrase pop up!
List of Idioms
Body Gestures: Latin America and Spain
Watch out! (¡Ojo! / ¡Cuidado!) – put your index finger to your eye and hold or tap just below
I promise you. (Te lo juro.) – make a fist, bring the thumb to the mouth, kiss it and then flick it outwards quickly with thumb up to show that you really mean it
Slow down! (¡Más lento!) – hand open with the palm facing outward, moving in a patting motion
It’s delicious. (Está delicioso.) – fingers come together at the mouth then moved forward and opened
Come here. (Ven aca.) – hand out with fingers down, palm face down, move fingers simultaneously together, making a motion from the person toward your body
Thief! (¡Ladrón!) – palm down, while each finger touches the palm one at a time. You can do this if you’re on a bus or in a smaller space, and you notice a pickpocket nearby. This would be a great way to warn other people.
Body Gestures to Avoid
In Spain, people consider yawning or stretching in public vulgar. So, no matter how tired you are, avoid making this mistake! It is also a common cultural mix-up to use the standard American gesture of “come here” with your hand out, palm up, and index finger wiggling. This actually portrays a romantic interest in Latin culture, and people only use it in very specific situations. Remember to turn your hand over and use all your fingers in a sweeping motion toward your body to signal someone to come to you. On the other hand, if you’re in Latin America, avoid gesturing with your hand turned sideways with your fingers spread. This motion is a strong insult against the other person.
Let Your Brain Learn and Your Body Talk
During your Spanish-learning journey, you can begin to expand your horizons and learn more about Hispanic culture. Idioms and body language are, of course, a big part of that experience! Every time you learn a new theme, such as food or travel, challenge yourself to look up idioms and gestures that are used to communicate relevant information. You will soon see that you’ve built an empire of knowledge. This will help you improve your speaking skills, comprehension ability, and capacity to integrate into Spanish culture.Read More
What’s the difference between “martes” and “miércoles” in Spanish? If you still struggle with this answer, then you are in the right place! In this post, you will learn the seven most common words in Spanish: the days of the week. Additionally, we will cover how to pronounce them and use them in sentences. What’s more, if you need a boost in memory power, I’ll share below a proven technique for you to remember new vocabulary. ¡Vamos!
Días de la Semana
Firstly, there are a few differences you must know about los días de la semana in Spanish. For example, they are always lower case, unlike the days in English. In contrast to the English calendar that starts with Sunday, the week begins on Monday in Latin countries. Additionally, each day uses the masculine definite article in singular (el lunes) and plural (los lunes).
The Definite Articles: “El” and “Los”
When using the definite article “el” while we talk about the days of the week, it means “on”. Try out these phrases to practice the new vocabulary:
¿Vas a venir a mi casa el domingo?
Are you going to come to my house on Sunday?
Yo tengo que trabajar el lunes.
I have to work on Monday.
Él quiere ir al dentista el jueves.
He wants to go to the dentist on Thursday.
Furthermore, we can change the definite article to “los” and add an -s to the day when we mean to say that something happens habitually. Keep in mind, if the day already ends in -s then we don’t need to add another -s.
Yo hago compras con mi abuela los sábados.
I shop with my grandma on Saturdays.
Ella juega a las cartas los martes.
She plays cards on Tuesdays.
Los miércoles, yo trabajo como tutor de inglés.
On Wednesdays, I work as an English tutor.
How to Memorize
In order to remember the days of the week as quickly as possible, you can follow a tried-and-true memory technique. This requires a bit of creativity, but it’s well worth it! For each day, try to link the sound of the word with a crazy mental image. Surprisingly, this technique is consistent and effective. Let’s try it together…
El lunes – When you read the word, it sounds very similar to the English word “loony.” Think of a funny image of a loony-looking guy standing in front of a sign that reads “Lunes”. He is the first in a line of six other characters, which will be the other days of the week. You can even repeat in your head “Loony lunes” to reinforce both the pronunciation and the image.
Now you try!
Write your list of the next six days and write out a description of a super crazy, funny picture. Similarly, you could just draw it. Remember, the trick is in the image: the crazier it is, the easier it will be to remember. In no time, you will memorize all of the Spanish days of the week!
The Origin of the Spanish Days of the Week
The Spanish days of the week have a significant history and origin to their names. Read on to learn more:
Lunes comes from the Latin Dies lunae, meaning día de la luna. In English, this means, “Day of the Moon”.
Martes comes from the Latin Dies marte, meaning día de marte. In English, this means “Day of Mars”.
Miércoles comes from the Latin Mercurii dies, meaning día de Mercurio. In English, this means “Day of Mercury.”
Jueves comes from the Latin Jovis dies, meaning día de Júpiter. In English, this means “Day of Jupiter.”
Viernes comes from the Latin Veneris dies, meaning día de Venus. In English, it stands for “Day of Venus.”
Sábado comes from the Hebrew word Sabbat, the day of rest.
Domingo comes from the Latin Dies Dominicus, día del Señor or “Day of the Lord” in English. It is related to both the sun and the Christian reverence for the son of God, Jesus.
The Days of Our Lives
All in all, learning the days of the week in Spanish is important for conversations and meetings with friends. You will also be able to understand when they are trying to set a date with you. Moreover, you’ll be able to talk about some of your habits and routines when you are getting to know someone. Ultimately, every beginner Spanish learner should make sure they know the days of the week and how to use them in a sentence.Read More
Homeschool Spanish Academy (HSA) has a unique curriculum and teaching style that can be tailored to the varied needs of students of all ages and levels. The immersive teaching style helps students to learn quickly and in a more natural manner. HSA also offers live online tutoring with certified instructors to create the best means of learning possible. HSA stands by their teaching style, but what is that makes this approach truly effective?
Here are some of the practices that HSA uses to keep your child engaged, excited to speak Spanish and confident in their linguistic skills.
Classes on Your Child’s Level
One point that HSA takes a lot of pride in is that they can tailor your child’s classes to their grade level or interests. While the basic curriculum remains the same, each teacher has a bit of freedom as to pace, adjusting the amount of time spent writing or speaking as needed or just adding in a bit more conversation.
Many students find that traditional classes goes too slow or too quickly for their style of learning. This often leads to students giving up either from frustration or boredom and hinders learning.
When a teacher can see how a student learns and then responds to that student as an individual as opposed to another face in the crowd, everything changes. Suddenly, class is a place where your child feels supported and the real learning begins.
Time for Review
One of the elements of language learning that can make it overwhelming is the sheer number of words, grammar rules and exceptions that students have to juggle as the semester advances. This is why time for reflection is so important.
Students retain their new vocabulary and master grammar rules when they have a chance to revisit them. Review sessions pull double duty – they serve as a warm up and get learners ready for new material, but it also reinforces the past lessons in the student’s mind. While it can be tempting to power through old lessons and focus on new words and phrases, review truly is key to making students confident Spanish speakers.
Real Conversation and Interaction
As a parent, you have a lot of choices for online classes, but very few offer a live, in-person teacher. The majority rely on automated lessons your child can click through.
When students have an actual teacher to interact with during class and tutoring sessions, the learning dynamic changes. Knowing that a real person is on the other side of his or her lesson means they can go beyond staring at a screen and develop a connection with their educator. It also opens the door to natural, organic conversation in Spanish to help reinforce your child’s skills and become a bilingual learner.
Sign up for a free class today to see for yourself just how effective HSA tutoring is for learners of all ages. Click here to schedule your session.Read More